By Ismail Akwei
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called on African leaders to reinstate Israel’s observer status in the African Union (AU).
Israel lost its observer status in 2002 when the Organisation of African Union was dissolved and replaced by the AU.
“Israel should once again be an observer state of the African Union … I fervently believe that it’s in your interest too, in the interest of Africa. And I hope all of you will support that goal,” Netanyahu told West African leaders at the 51st ECOWAS Summit of Heads of State in Liberia’s capital Monrovia on Sunday.
“I ask for your support in rejecting anti-Israel bias at the United Nations, and in bodies such as the General Assembly, UNESCO and the Human Rights Council,” he appealed.
Israel should once again be an observer state of the African Union … I fervently believe that it’s in your interest too, in the interest of Africa. And I hope all of you will support that goal.
He likened Israel to Africa and said a change of mind is what will bring peace to the world.
“With determination and conviction, you won your independence … This is very much our story. Our people too were denied independence … Many Arab countries no longer see Israel as their enemy. They see Israel as their ally, I would even say, their indispensable ally in the fight against terrorism and in seizing the future of technology and innovation,” he said.
Netanyahu added that the change of attitude in the Arab world “is new and I believe it’s the best hope for peace, not only between Israel and the countries in the region, but ultimately between Israel and the Palestinians. This is what changes minds and hearts.”
Palestine was granted an observer status in the African Union in 2013 and its leader Mahmoud Abbas has addressed the Union on a number of occasions.
Israel strongly believes its absence in the African Union has affected the country in terms of votes in international forums as a result of the country’s voice not being heard.
Before his visit to Liberia, he told local media that the purpose of the trip was to “dissolve this majority, this giant bloc of 54 African countries that is the basis of the automatic majority against Israel in the U.N. and international bodies.”
“Israel is a small nation that dreams very, very big. Lets work together to realize big dreams for all our people. Let our dreams be so audacious. But just as those who doubted Israel were proven wrong, let us ensure that the skeptics who doubt Africa are also proven wrong,” he told the West African leaders.
Netanyahu concluded by saying: “Israel is a nation that loves and respects all … In Israel, Jews, Christians and Muslims live side by side as equal citizens. This is the real Israel.”
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Netanyahu heads to Africa with many question marks
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) stands with Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta (2nd L) and military officials during his visit to Nairobi on July 5, 2016. (Photo by AFP)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has traveled to Liberia for a rare appearance at a summit of West African nations, prompting one member country to stay away.
The 51st ordinary meeting of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) began in the Liberian capital Monrovia on Saturday and was to end later on Sunday.
Netanyahu was invited to address the ECOWAS meeting, the first time a non-African leader has been asked to speak to the event.
Moroccan King Mohammed VI canceled his participation at the summit in protest at Netanyahu’s presence.
Morocco’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the monarch “wants his first presence at an ECOWAS summit not to take place in a context of tension and controversy, and wants to avoid any confusion.”
“Over the last few days, key ECOWAS member states have decided to reduce their level of representation at the summit due to their disagreement with the invitation handed to the Israeli prime minister. Other member states also expressed their astonishment at this invitation,” it added.
Participants pose for a group photo at the 50th ordinary meeting of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Abuja, Nigeria, December 17, 2016.
Prior to his departure, Netanyahu wrote on his Facebook page that his “visit to Liberia is another chapter in the attempt to break the automatic anti-Israel majority in the United Nations.”
“This process will take years… In the meantime, Israel is coming back to Africa in a big way,” the hardline Israeli prime minister said.
During his trip, the Israeli prime minister was to meet with a number of leaders from West African nations and sign a cooperation agreement and two memoranda of understanding between Tel Aviv and ECOWAS.
This is Netanyahu’s second trip to Africa in a year. Last July, he traveled to four countries of Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Ethiopia, the first visit by an Israeli prime minister to sub-Saharan Africa in 29 years.
The Israeli leader is scheduled to attend another summit in Togo in October that is expected to draw leaders from 25 African countries.
Israel’s ties with African nations have deteriorated due to the latter’s support for the Palestinian cause and Tel Aviv’s backing for the former apartheid regime in South Africa.
By visiting Africa, the Israeli premier seeks to convince African countries to stop voting against Israel at the United Nations where the regime is subject to constant rebuke over its settlement expansion.
Most importantly, however, Israel is trying to cash in on Africa’s arms market which has been absorbing Israeli weapons in recent years. Israeli exports to Africa totaled about $1 billion last year, about 2% of its total exports.
With insurgencies and Takfiri militancy growing across Africa, including Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabaab and Daesh-linked Boko Haram, Israeli leaders are looking to sell advanced military equipment to the continent, the New York Times wrote on the eve of Netanyahu’s visit last year.